Artist’s use of light impresses

McGivney's landscapes are some of the best compositions seen in North Toronto


I must confess I found it difficult to interview my friend and fellow artist, Joan McGivney. Instead of talking about her own artwork, she’d rather discuss music, film, literature, and the art work of others — especially that of her middle son who is currently exhibiting in Berlin.

Joan’s realistic landscapes feature some of the best composition and use of light I’ve ever seen.

When I asked her what she is most proud of as an artist she replied, “I am very proud of my volunteer executive  roles at the North York Visual Art Group and the North Toronto Group of Artists, which I co-founded with Sheila. We felt strongly that the local artistic talent in our neighbourhood deserved the recognition and support of its own community.”

Joan is thrilled we’ve celebrated our eighth annual studio art tour this April with the help of three other executive members.

“I am so happy with how much attention the group is getting,” Joan says.

Joan fondly remembers doing her first paintings in kindergarten where she used poster paint to paint raindrops. She painted these daily! As her abilities grew she expanded her repertoire to the point where she eventually got an Honours Fine Arts degree from the University of Toronto. She followed it with a Bachelors of Education and taught high school art for 32 years.

“While I was teaching I also continued to paint and exhibit until I stopped to have a family. After my kids had grown up and I retired from full time teaching, I began again to paint and exhibit my work,” Joan said.

One of my favourite paintings by Joan is “Ice Storm Fantasy” which shows a gorgeous winter day as the late afternoon sun makes every snowflake and chunk of ice sparkle. The radiant white snow and cool blue and pink ice form dramatic shapes across the shimmering landscape. Joan uses a technique called “painterly use of colour,” which uses many colour accents within an area of colour to enhance the visual effect.

The snow on the tree branches and the ice on the ground glow against darkening clouds painted in blues and gold. I can almost hear the dripping of the melting ice as the late afternoon sun shines on everything frozen. I feel like I have stepped in a fairytale. This is winter at its most beautiful.

Another favourite is “The Marina”, which depicts the long vertical masts of a group of sailboats waiting to be taken out onto the calm water. I love how Joan has captured their nautical colours of blue and white and showed off her ability to play with the reflections of the sailboats in the water. Once again, her composition is perfect and I feel like I am looking at a photograph. In the distance is Toronto, a favourite place for Joan to paint.

Joan loves painting landscapes.

“I find nature to be a spiritual and calming experience. My work for the most part is full of joy,” Joan says. I would agree. Her website is

Joan is currently spreading her love of culture to art students at the ArtBarn School, where she is one of their part time art teachers. She spends her Sundays singing and playing guitar at Blessed Sacrament Church.

Joan would like to do more figurative work with jazz singers. She and her husband Tom love jazz and she loves painting so if fits perfectly.

Where she finds the time to work, play, volunteer, sing, and paint, I don’t know. But I do know she is one of a kind and I’m very lucky to have been inspired by her kindness and her immense talent.

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Posted: May 3 2016 9:00 am
Filed in: Column  VIEWS